Millennials drinking a lot of wine

If you’ve been out cruising downtown any night this winter, you’ve probably noticed how busy some of the city’s more-popular restaurants have been.

And if you looked twice, you might also have noticed how many of those people at restaurants with a glass of wine in front of them were younger women.

That trend gets explained in a recent report from the Wine Market Council, which says people in their 20s and early to mid-30s now drink almost half the wine bought in the United States.

What’s more, in what’s called the “high-frequency drinker” segment, women under 30 women are out-purchasing men two-to-one when it comes to wine.

Now, “high-frequency drinker” isn’t as lascivious as it sounds. According to the council, it refers to someone who may drink wine more than once a week. That faction buys and consumes 81 percent of all the wine consumed in America, the council says.

Again, the council report says Baby Boomers account for the largest group in the high-frequency class, but Millennials (those people born between 1978 and 1995) are right behind them, making up 30 percent of frequent drinkers.

How fast the kids grow up.

As of Jan. 1, the youngest members of the Millennial generation turned 21, which means there now are an estimated 79 million more potential wine drinkers between the ages of 21 and 38, a number grabbing the attention of marketing directors around the world.

It’s a case of a generation finally growing into itself, specifically older Millennials 30–38 years old, said John Gillespie, president of the council, during a presentation Jan. 25 in New York City.

“Wine drinkers are beginning to sort themselves out,” Gillespie said. “It’s the self-identification of, ‘Yeah, I’m a wine person.’”

The purchasing power of the Millennials already is being felt: The Wine Market Council report says this group consumed 159.6 million cases of wine in 2015.

That’s 42 percent of all the wine consumed in this country last year and more than any other generation (sorry, Boomers, you’re starting to slow down).

According to an article in Wine Spectator magazine, the report also says that the wine that Millennials are drinking is not their parents’ wine. It is from more diverse regions, it’s more expensive, and it is more likely to be sustainable and organic.

Expensive means the so-called premium wines, upward of $20 per bottle. The council survey found that 17 percent of all Millennial wine drinkers bought a bottle costing more than $20 in the past month, compared to 10 percent of all drinkers and 5 percent of Baby Boomers.

According to a Nielsen report on off-premise wine sales (not in a bar or restaurant), the average price paid for a bottle of wine in 2011 was $6.31; by 2015, it rose to $7.81.

And what may be of interest to winemakers in less-traditional winemaking regions (yeah, Colorado, we’re looking at you), the WMC study found younger wine drinkers leaning toward diversity, in both regions and styles, more than other generations.

This receptiveness to new regions, new styles and even new grapes is reflected in the fact that 30 percent of the high-frequency wine-drinking Millennials also say they purchased wine from Washington, Oregon, Chile, Argentina, Germany, Portugal, South Africa, Greece, Austria, New York, New Zealand or Spain in the past three months.

That’s higher, sometimes much higher, than their Boomer counterparts.

Not surprisingly, the one region that did not show growth among Millennials in the past three years was California.

That’s still Boomer country.

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